National News

North Carolina farmers trying to rebound from storms as heat moves in

Posted June 19, 2018 10:18 a.m. EDT

— This heat wave brings challenges for area farmers still recovering from one of the wettest months of May on record.

Mountain farmers may have dodged the downpours but now comes the heat.

Some are dealing with problems like fields overgrown with weeds and not yet planted.

It's a mixed bag at North River Farms in Henderson County. Water is being pumped to irrigate tomatoes just recently drowned by heavy rain but now showing signs of a little wilt in the scorching sun.

"It's good currently, but we're kind of on the end of where the heat is going to help us," North River Farms assistant manager Will Roske said.

In some cases you replant, in others, you cut your losses.

Some fields are now dry enough to be picked, gathering the fruits and vegetables that weathered the 20 inches of rain that fell there.

A field of celery at North River Farms is finally dry enough to be picked. But it and rows of strawberries that were knocked to the ground by the weight of rain are facing another problem -- pests.

"We've had more slugs because of all the water and all the moisture, so it's been not only do we get rotten berries, we also get more animal damage," Roske said.

And there's field corn that provides evidence of the threat hot sun can eventually bring.

"It's good in the initial because it helps dry out the ground and helps the crops kind of recover," Roske said. "But, if it gets too dry and too kind of hot, you'll see corn start to roll and it'll start to damage the crops that way."

The threat rain came again Monday, coming during a trip to the hay fields, where the harvest is already two to three weeks behind schedule.

"Any sustained rainfall will cause it to mold. Horses can't eat moldly hay, because it makes them sick," Roske said.

Because the hay harvest is behind and clients are waiting, that part of the recovery process gets priority.

"I hope it keeps going the way it's going, maybe a little bit cooler," Roske said. "But if it stays dry, we'll be happy and we'll make it work."

That strawberry crop may not be the biggest money-maker, but it likely took the biggest hit -- a loss of as many as 2,000 buckets at $12 each. That's about $24,000.